Monday, July 19, 2010

Overlooked VG Music #2: The Battle of Lothering Village

For our newest entry in the "Overlooked Video Game Music" collection, I've decided to choose something a bit more current. BioWare's epic fantasy RPG Dragon Age: Origins, released in November 2009, enjoyed great success and critical acclaim. As a game, it doesn't stray far from the classic BioWare formula present in many of the Canadian developer's games, with diverse (and romance-able) party members, mountains of dialogue, and a branching story with much freedom. If it ain't broken, don't try to fix it, right?

Dragon Age's score was written by the prolific composer Inon Zur, known for his work on a variety of scores from television shows (Power Rangers, Digimon, Escaflowne) to video games (Baldur's Gate II, Icewind Dale II, Prince of Persia) to a few smaller films. The Dragon Age soundtrack has already received critical acclaim, with the score winning "Best Video Game Score" at the Movie Music UK Awards and the main theme winning "Best Original Song – Video Game" at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards. Even with such a well-received soundtrack, however, occasionally things slip through the cracks.

"The Battle of Lothering Village," track 26 in the official Dragon Age soundtrack, is one such piece. The track plays only in an area called (appropriately enough) Lothering Village, a small portion of the game that, unlike other areas, the player cannot return to past a certain part of the game. The track name itself is also a wee bit misleading. There is no "Battle of Lothering Village"; rather, the track plays during the few fights that occur in Lothering's outskirts. Nonetheless, this piece is one of my favorite role-playing game battle themes. Throughout my playthough of Dragon Age: Origins, I'd kept my ears peeled in hopes of hearing the music once more, but alas, I never encountered it again past Lothering. Anyway, I'll let you listen to the piece before I speak more of it:

Hopefully you enjoyed listening to the piece as much as I did. In my opinion, it's the perfect blend of cacophony and majesty, with an added touch of melancholy for good measure. The piece starts out like a more typical battle piece, with lots of brass and dissonance, but then the strings enter at 1:27 and the mood goes out the roof. I still remember my jaw dropping the first time I encountered that part of the tune; it really made that much of an impression on me. Inon Zur is noted for saying that rather than compose music to fit a setting in a game, he composes it instead to evoke an emotion he believes the player should feel at that moment. I can really see that philosophy come to life in this piece. I imagine Mr. Zur sought to inspire both conflict and tragedy, which is perfect for Lothering, embattled and distressed but still proud. Quite the masterpiece.

That concludes this edition of "Overlooked Video Game Music." If you get a chance, head over to Inon Zur's site and take a gander, or check out the rest of the Dragon Age soundtrack; I promise it'll be enjoyable. :) Please leave comments: about my critique, about the music, about the game, anything, really. If there are other pieces you'd like to suggest, send 'em my way and I'll take a listen; I'm always open to discovering great new music.



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